We are so proud to have so many leaders and change-makers among us—of which Danielle Veldhuis is both. Danielle has been part of the TurF community since we opened in 2017. As a Registered Clinical Counsellor and board member of Big Sisters, we've asked her to sit down with us and chat about COVID-19, Big Sisters, and all things community.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Like most TurF'rs, I wear many different hats. I am a mom to a kind, funny and fiercely independent 8-year-old girl named Maelle; wife to my partner Niels—together for almost 20 years; proud long-time Board member of Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland (and deeply passionate about its mission); and, a Registered Clinical Counsellor at my private practice Foundations Counselling here in Vancouver. Family and social connections are an integral part of my life whether it's working out with friends at TurF, annual week-end-getaways with my group of girlfriends (we’ve had the same group for nearly 20 years) or skiing, hiking and biking with my family.
What psychological impacts of COVID-19 have you seen from your position as a Registered Clinical Counsellor?
The psychological impacts of COVID-19 are real and many. They are unfortunately becoming more evident now, one month into distancing and quarantining. In my work with individuals, I am seeing a lot of anxiety, fear, sadness, loneliness and grief—all feelings to be expected given this unprecedented situation. At the same time, I am seeing incredible resiliency and people working hard to tolerate these feelings and implement healthy coping strategies.
How can we support ourselves and one another right now?
Self-compassion is so critical. This is such a unique situation. There is no “right” way to feel. I encourage people to notice and acknowledge the difficult feelings. If we give ourselves permission to accept that these feelings are okay and normal, we can develop strategies to cope so our feelings don’t overtake how we live our day to day lives.
In terms of supporting one another, I encourage working hard on connection. Physical distancing is critical to avoid the spread of COVID-19 but “social distancing” leads to loneliness and depression. Commit to checking in on family, friends, work colleagues and others—whether it’s through online video sessions, phone calls or just having a (distanced) conversation with a neighbour. We all need connection and a sense of belonging.
Routine is also critical. Maintaining a schedule in our daily lives should include proper sleep, healthy, well-balanced meals, daily exercise and mindfulness practice. And kindness…it’s free and contagious! Lastly, the judgment of others. Let’s leave that at the door—we do not know everyone else’s situation so let’s trust we are all dealing with this in the best way we know how to.
How did you get started with Big Sisters?
I was introduced to Big Sisters 8 years ago by Joanne Brown, who’s become a great friend and incredible mentor. Joanne encouraged me to apply to the Board of Directors, and I was lucky enough to join this critical organization. For those who do not know, Big Sisters serves vulnerable, at-risk youth who face an array of challenges such as poverty, isolation, parental neglect, sexual violence, and bullying. Our mission is to facilitate and enable life-changing mentoring relationships to ignite the power and potential of young girls. I truly believe that every girl should have a mentor.
What is Big sisters doing to keep their community connected? Is there anything we can do to support them?
Big Sisters is needed now more than ever. With our vulnerable young women being forced to stay home and isolate, this can exacerbate their already-difficult lives. Our Little Sisters can no longer meet face to face with their Big Sisters—who are a critical, stabilizing force in their lives. Our wonderful team at Big Sisters has been working tirelessly to find creative ways for Big Sisters to regularly connect with their Little Sisters—including phone calls and old-school letter writing. We continue to dedicate resources to training volunteers (online), monitoring existing matches, and maintaining stability amidst uncertainty.
We’ve been hard hit at Big Sisters. Two of our three major funding events (scheduled for April and May) have unfortunately been cancelled. We have 800 girls in our program and need financial support to keep our critical programs running.
If you can and are inspired to do so, you can make a gift by donating online—any amount is greatly appreciated.
We are also always looking for Big Sisters who want to make a difference! Big Sisters are both role models and friends to these young girls.
Anything else you think the TurF community should know about?
One of our core values at Big Sisters is “Showing up Matters”. I think that is so important during times like these. Showing up for friends, family, colleagues, neighbours and others will make a huge difference.
What is your favourite part about the TurF community?
The friendly, community vibe at TurF has been an incredible stabilizer and source of joy for me over the past three years. I moved to Vancouver with my family five years ago from Tsawwassen where I felt very connected in my community. Becoming a TurF'r allowed me to feel a part of a Vancouver community. I have met so many other wonderful women at Turf and it is definitely a happy place for me.
Favourite menu item:
Kale Caesar salad with salmon or tofu depending on my mood that day! Oh….and everyday cookies of course (my husband and daughter love them)!
Favourite class + why:
I am truly a fan of all of the classes at TurF but “The Class” has been life-altering for me. That may sound dramatic but it is my therapy and has become an integral part of my self-care and self-compassion routine. If you have not tried it, you must….with an open mind and heart and leaving your ego at the door!
Favourite TurF shop item:
Lazypants camo joggers. The best for ski bum weekends and when I am full of everyday cookies!